It's a hard life being an artist, living by your passions and dreams. You create and share great art, hoping it will change the world, only to inevitably run into the suits, and the cold reality of the marketplace.
It's a lesson I'm well aware of (in case you haven't noticed, I'm still not a world-famous artist), even though I resist the realist view every step of the way. Perhaps that's why I'm such a fierce champion for these animated works from Japan. They're beautiful. They're moving. They intelligent, wise, thought-provoking. These are some of the great cinematic works of my lifetime. And it's all so painterly; only animation truly fulfills cinema's promise as the dream factory.
But there's still the hard reality of the market. Folks have to be paid. And it's here that the dreams usually die.
What future is there for anime in America? What future is there for the Takahata/Miyazaki canon? Really? It's one thing to be moved by a classic like Anne of Green Gables or Gauche the Cellist, to name a couple examples.
Heck, look at Totoro. Even in the greater American culture, poor Totoro is only barely known. Apart from animation fans and the wisely devoted parents (the ones who do more for their children then schlump them in front of the idiot box and call it a day)...where does it all fit? I'd be greatly interested in looking at some sales numbers.
In a perfect world, the market would be wider and the audiences would be smarter, and there would be good money to be made by all parties involved. But how do you crack this egg? And can this egg be cracked at all?
These are the kind of sobering questions that rumble through my mind after surfing through three years of "Ask John" columns from Anime Nation. His view lacks any romanticism about the commercial state of anime in the States. I'm sure he wishes things could change. But he doesn't seem to believe that will happen.
To succeed with a Heidi or Marco or Anne, to succeed with a Conan or Lupin, you need to break to a wider audience that what's currently available. As of now, that's pretty much teenage boys and parents of small children. Hmm.
I'm trying to think of ways I could have made Animal Treasure Island and Puss in Boots sell better than they have. Maybe the packaging could have used better colors. Maybe they shouldn't have been single-layer discs. Maybe rigorous pursuit of the anime community would have helped. Maybe I'd find out I had a rich uncle buried in the mountains.
I don't know how to change that. I really don't. All I have are my dreams, and this stubborn conviction that there's more to life than what we merely see. There's more than the numbers. If you'd only sit down and watch, and experience for youself, then things would change. Then we'd get the revolution. Maybe.
Then there's this viscious circle involving dubbing. Paying for a dub of an anime series will at least double production costs. But most consumers insist upon American dubs (strangely enough, they like the idea of watching Japanese animation, but don't want to be reminded of anything that's actually from Japan). So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Hmm. Not good, in any case. Any ideas?